God’s Authority

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While riding my bike today I saw this bumper sticker, “Respect authority, especially God’s” My thought after reading this statement was, “What does that really mean?”

So, let’s explore what it might mean to “Respect authority, especially God’s”? First, we need to begin with who God is or who’s God we are talking about? Are we referring to the Hebrew God who destroys folks who don’t respect Him? The God who swallows whole families in the earth for hording ‘manna’?   Are we talking about the God who commands parents to stone children who talk back to them?   Are we talking about the God who commands His followers to kill every enemy solder and civilian (women and children) plus all their livestock?   Are we talking about the God who kills the first-born children of the enemy of His people?   If that is the god we are to respect you can leave me out. A cruel god like that one is not a god I am interested in respecting. That kind of god opens the way for folks to hate and assault those different from themselves. A malevolent god with this nature leads us to Nazism, White supremacy and the KKK. I am not there and I do not respect a god of hate and murder.

If we are talking about The God Jesus of Nazareth espouses you will get my attention. Jesus assures us he has come to complete the Hebrew law we know as the Old Testament. The purpose of the Hebrew law was to get people next to God by following the rules. Spoiler alert: That didn’t work! Jesus completes the law by getting people next to God through his presence with us. Jesus, the law completer gives us a simple formula for living on this plant.

The simple formula Jesus gives us is twofold. First, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Second, Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets.”

If these are the authority we are meant to respect, count me in. Here is a brief look at what it might mean to respect God’s command to love God and each other.

To love God means to love God’s creation with all our heart and soul and mind. If we respect God’s authority we would care for the earth, sky and sea created by God.   We would not place financial gain over keeping the air, water and earth clean of pollutants.

To love God means to love God’s creation with all our heart and soul and mind. If we respect God’s authority we would care for all the people on the earth God has created. God created humanity in a rainbow of colors.  God created all humanity and said that it was ‘good’. If we respect God’s authority we will accept each other as equal, none better and none lesser. All God’s creation deserves the opportunity to live without fear of each other on this earth where God’s authority is respected.

To love our neighbor as we love ourselves is already addressed in the first law. But let’s get personal about this law. If you don’t want to be shot by a neighbor, encourage your elected officials to pass a law prohibiting the civilian ownership of military style weapons. Advocate for sensible gun laws. You would be respecting God’s authority if you did that.

If you don’t want to choke to death due to lack of oxygen encourage your elected officials to pass legislation to reduce the spewing of toxic waste into our atmosphere and environment. Support organizations trying to save our planet. You would be respecting God’s authority if you did that!

If you would want help recovering from a devastating storm ask your elected officials to provide funding for the people of Puerto Rico and The Virgin Islands. Donate to relief efforts while you push your elected officials. You would be respecting God’s authority if you did that!

If the law or ideal being advocated in government or your neighborhood does not respect the two codes presented by Jesus, they do not respect God’s authority and must be discarded.

Respecting God’s authority means no one is marginalized or ostracized. What does it mean, really, to respect God’s authority? To respect God’s authority might really mean, “peace”. 

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The Flag

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During my twenty plus years in a United States military uniform I have served this country overseas in Vietnam, 

Cuba,

Korea,

NATO in Norway

and Kuwait.  My service was performed in defense of American democracy. Military personnel serve to defend the freedoms enshrined in the constitution. I served so folks could speak truth to power under the right of free speech. America is a great country (already) largely due to our First Amendment right.

Peaceful and non-violent demonstrations addressing inequality in our country are a necessary ingredient in the continual effort to improve the democratic process. My military service is my contribution in support of those willing to address inequality in our country.

I stand (or kneel) with those who have over time to public/peaceably chosen this form of protest to raise awareness of social ills in our country.    These actions are not taken lightly. The athletes involved in these demonstrations are intelligent people who are active in their communities and love The United States of America. I stand/kneel with them as together we try to improve life for all people in America.

Is kneeling during the National Anthem disrespect? Yes! Kneeling during the National Anthem is also a means to speak truth to power. This simple act of disrespect is a courageous act of free speech raising awareness of social inequality. Here are some other ways to disrespect the flag that serve no purpose what-so-ever.

Most folks know the flag is not supposed to touch the ground. But did you know:

The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions,  handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. 

The flag should not be used as part of a costume

or athletic uniform,  except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.

The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

The civil disobedience associated with the National Anthem and Flag is an effort to educate leaders to the needs of American citizens.  I really cannot believe we are still being forced to educate our white leaders about the inequalities in our society. As a military retiree I never expected one day to hear the President assault the first amendment right of people to protest peaceably in our country. The President should be the first to affirm the First Amendment right to peaceable free speech. Free speech is really what makes America great.

Hurricane Harvey and God’s People.

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Religious institutions make too many headlines resulting from their exclusionary policies, judgmental proclamations or petty bickering. But, this week the people of God look like the people God wants them to be.

Hurricane Harvey decimated the east coast of Texas and folks who worship God are responding.

God’s people ‘get it’ when disaster strikes. Responding to a disaster is the time people look the most like God’s image for humanity. One of the best statements I found today describing God’s people comes from Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. He writes, “Long ago the prophet Malachi taught that we are all children of God by virtue of our creation by the same God. “Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us,” he asked (2:10). Jesus taught the same thing when he told a story about a Good Samaritan. We are indeed all the children of God. And if we are all God’s children, then we are all brothers and sisters. 

A second beautiful illustration I found of humans living God’s ideal is in the Muslim tradition. Today is the beginning of the three-day Muslim Festival of Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha, which commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael in obedience to God. This year during the festival the Muslim community is living their belief that the festival represents; submission to God and the sacrifices one can make in God’s name, to serve one’s community. During the three day festival and beyond Muslims will be meeting the needs of their flood ravaged neighbors as a sacrificial gift.

Here is a short list of what other children of God are doing in response to this disaster.

The American Baptists are distributing relief grants.

The United Church of Christ is raising funds and sending supplies to the devastated area. Volunteers will be traveling to the east Texas coast as soon as they can get into the area. 

The President of the American Baptists writes, “As soon as we receive damage assessments, we will consider how we can best assist on the long road to rebuilding homes, churches and lives, and then begin distributing relief grants…In the meantime, let us all seek comfort in the words of the age-old hymn penned by Martin Luther: ‘A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.”

The Southern Baptists have, “pledged to help Texans recover from the aftermath of the hurricane.  Feeding and recovery units stand ready to help prepare meals, remove fallen tree limbs, clear roadways and tarp homes. Other units are poised to provide showers for survivors and volunteers, purify water, assess needs of homeowners, and even provide childcare.” 

The United Methodists (are) currently working with disaster coordinators and early response teams in Louisiana and Texas to provide relief to the many people whose lives have been impacted by hurricane/tropical storm Harvey.

The Lutheran’s are coordinating volunteer opportunities for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. They also, are taking donations and sending supplies. 

The Assembly of God is responding with a Convoy of Hope. Disaster response team members and a dozen vehicles have already been mobilized and will arrive in Texas this weekend, including mobile command centers; trucks full of water, food, and hygiene supplies; and work trucks containing chainsaws, wheelbarrows, and shovels.

LDS Charities, the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons), is donating supplies to the relief efforts and is preparing to support ongoing relief and cleanup. 

The Jewish Federations of North America sent $25,000 in immediate assistance to Texas.

Catholics are raising funds that will assist Catholic Charities agencies in the affected region to extend emergency help to families and individuals.  Additionally, the US bishops are launching a collection that will assist Catholic Charities in both the immediate and long-term recovery efforts. 

When God’s people open their hearts and wallets they become the people God wants them to be every day. My prayer for us is to be more of what God wants us to be every day. God wants us to be people who willingly open our hearts and wallets to relieve the suffering of our world neighborhood. I believe we can be more like God every day. Really.

Really: A Blog

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Today I am sharing with you a letter I sent to Mitch McConnell the Majority Leader in the Senate. I felt compelled to send this letter after watching the antics coming out of the White House the past seven month. As I experience the actions of the President I begin to wonder how The Majority Leader must be feeling. So, I penned the letter below. Really!

Dear Senator McConnell, 

Do you remember when we had a President who was intelligent and articulate? Do you remember when there was a dignity associated with the Oval Office and a President who embraced all Americans? Do you remember when the President did not engage in personal attacks on those who opposed him. Do you remember when the rest of the world respected our President? 

I’m certain you do remember because you dedicated yourself to fighting against that President, obstructing every one of his initiatives and doing everything in your power to stop his re-election.

I am wondering today, how that has worked out for you?   With all due respect, you screwed up (as the current President might say) bigly.

We can’t go back but we can go forward. I recommend that you begin moving forward by calling President Barack Obama and giving him a heartfelt apology for the way you treated him. After your apology, I recommend you start fresh in the Senate by pulling together the leaders from both parties and stand up to this President before he dismantles our government.

It is never too late to apologize and reboot. Start over in concert with both party’s leaders to avoid the disaster being wrought by the current President.

Sincerely,

Allen L. Heckman, MAJ, USAF, (Ret)

Really: A Blog-Republished

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To those of you who already received this blog and the ones following, I apologize. I just discovered a connection problem with Facebook which I believe is now fixed.

The time has come for me to return to writing a blog.

To be transparent I must inform all of you who followed my blog when it was a fun adventure around the counties of Pennsylvania, the current blog will be less fun (probably). I imagine some of you will unfriend me and I understand completely. However, the last weekend has been the catalyst that drove me back to the keyboard and a new blog.

The title of the blog will now be, “Really”. I have chosen this title because the word can be a question or a statement which allows me plenty of latitude to ask the question or to express my thoughts on the subject.

The reason I am sitting at my computer this evening is because we have a President who is unable to denounce hate groups such as, White Supremacists,   Neo Nazis     and the KKK.

We are up to our necks with immoral filth when the leader of our country is unable to denounce groups who’s stated purpose is to eliminate non-white populations of people. If I,   a white guy, remain silent while these white privilege groups spew their hate of non-whites I become responsible for the increase in hate rhetoric and violence in our country. So, with no further apologies welcome to “Really”.

Did you know: The world’s largest ethnic group is Han Chinese with Mandarin being the world’s most spoken language in terms of native speakers.    I didn’t think so!

Did you know: According to Edwin Tomy there are approximately 1.3 billion white people in the world. (I’m not sure who this guy is. After a bunch of searches, I didn’t find a definitive answer. But, I figure if someone takes the time to count all the people in the world he must be for real-tired but real. I hope he had a calculator with him while he was counting. And how did he get folks to stand still long enough to count them?)

So, tired Edwin says there are 1.3 billion people in the world. But, if you add ‘whitish’ folks to the number you have:

200 million Castizos (mainly white but with a touch of other races) 

300 million Mulattos, Meztizos and Eurasians (half whites) 

100-200 million people from the Middle East and Northern India who aren’t of European descent but have pale skin and Indoeuropean / Caucasian features 

When you add this up you have 1.9-2.0 billion ‘whitish’ people around the world with a total population of 7.5 billion folks. Really!

The way I see it the Neo-Nazis, White Supremacist and KKK won’t be counting the Castizos, Meztizos and Indoeuropeans as members of their clubs because they are not Ivory Snow white. This leaves these groups with a maximum membership of 1.3 billion people. That means the white hate groups somehow think they are superior to 6.2 billion people. Really?

There is a biblical quote that goes something like this, “”Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him.” Luke 14:31 

All you hate group goof-balls maybe it’s time you sit down with some smart counselor and figure the odds of 1.3 billion people taking down 6.2 billion. Oh, don’t forget to subtract all the white folk who have not and will not buy a membership in your club.

Are you beginning to understand how important it is for a white guy or gal, to speak out against the hate mongers? The more we white folk tell the haters we stand in opposition to them the sooner they will come to the realization that their message is falling on deaf ears and they should crawl back into their caves and allow the rest of us to live together in the diverse human world that is so splendid and beautiful.

One last thing: God created every human being on this earth and God loves each one of us the same.     Really. 

The Reason I Am Not Blogging

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Some of you may be wondering why I haven’t written any blogs lately. I have been channeling my energy into a campaign of prolific writing to my elected officials. I feel compelled to continue a dialogue, at least with the folks who read the elected officials mail, sharing my concerns with the assault on forward progress attained in our country. I have shared my concerns with my elected officials on the topics of race relations, growth of hate groups and activities, healthcare, the budget, international relationships and climate. I have been very busy composing letters in response to the simplistic approach our leadership has been taking to very complex issues. Anyway, my point is that instead of writing blogs I have been writing letters, letters similar to the one below written to our Governor with copies to my State Senator and Representative.

I also have been hanging out with our grandchildren.  (Walter on his 2nd birthday.) So, now you know what I have been up to and what I expect I will be up to moving forward.

Dear Governor Scott,

It is time for Florida to join other states in support of the Paris Climate Accord. Florida needs to be vibrantly engaged in accomplishing the following objectives to reach a goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

  • Legislation must be passed to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in vehicles and from corporate pollution.
  • Polluters who do not comply with the new emission standards must be fined severely.
  • Offer incentives to energy companies working with renewable energy sources. We live in a state with an abundance of solar power, lots of wind power and is surrounded by hydro power. Our state could adopt a goal of using only renewable energy sources and have plenty of energy to sell to our neighboring states.
  • Require that all public transportation systems transition to renewable energy by the year 2020.
  • Offer incentives to home owners and corporations who install renewable energy sources on their properties.
  • Join with other states and countries as a statement of solidarity with the rest of the world striving to save the planet that gives us life.

Governor, we must act now before we find ourselves spending millions of dollars building dikes around our coastal cities due to the rising ocean levels.

You must break from The President on his decision to leave the ‘voluntary’ Paris Climate Accord and stand up for our planet.

Sincerely,

Allen L. Heckman, MAJ, USAF, Ret

Quest: Settling Arguments

I met a guy who disagreed with me. So, I decided to call him vulgar names and keep shouting louder than he did   until he stopped arguing with me.

I really taught him not to argue with me, and my friends celebrated my ‘telling it like it is’.

The next time I met that guy he disagreed with me again. So, I decided to put him in a head lock,   throw him to the ground and give him a quick kick. He stopped arguing with me after that.

I really taught him not to argue with me, and my friends elected me to public office.

The next time I met that guy he still disagreed with me. So, I grabbed a cane and hit him   until he ran out the door holding a broken arm.

I really taught him not to argue with me, and my friends said I was a ‘real’ man.

One more time that guy disagreed with me. So, I pulled out my gun and shot him.    It was okay for me to do that because he was a loony conservative (or liberal, whichever is opposite of your ideology) who disagreed with me.

I really taught him not to argue with me, and my friends approved of my courageous stance against guys like him.

During Memorial Day weekend may we pause and remember the hope that dared dream of a country striving for something greater.

‘We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.’

 

See you next time.

Quest: What is Religious Liberty?

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The Pilgrim’s journey to Plymouth Rock began in the mid-16th century with the adoption, in England, of the Act of Uniformity. Under the 1559 Act, it was illegal not to attend official Church of England services and people were fined for every missed Sunday.

A group later known as The Pilgrims, already had adopted the ideas of Richard Clyfton believing their differences with the Church of England were irreconcilable and that their worship should be organized independently of the trappings, traditions, and organization of a central church. Pilgrims maintained that their congregations needed to be separated from the English state church.

Of course, the Church of England was the state church and the government did not embrace the Pilgrims need to be separate in their religious beliefs. The conflict resulted in the Pilgrims traveling to The Netherlands and eventually, in 1620 arriving in what is now Massachusetts. 

The Pilgrims fled the intolerance of a government that limited religious freedom to practice religion in their own way. Religious liberty is the ability to practice religion according to your own beliefs and not being forced to practice religion according to someone else’s beliefs.

The Pilgrims soon forgot what religious liberty was and imposed their religious beliefs and practices on all those who lived in their colony. The best-known example of the Pilgrims intolerance is the banishment of Roger Williams (not the singer)   in 1636 because he would not accept the Pilgrims religious practices. For those who might have forgotten who Williams is, he is the founder of Rhode Island.

My fear is that we are currently amid a movement in some quarters of the religious world to undo religious liberty in the name of religious liberty. Religious liberty is not demanding others practice religion like you do. Religious liberty is the ideal of different religious beliefs living side by side tolerating each other. The Founding Fathers worked hard to ensure religious freedom (liberty) for the citizens of the United States.  The signers of the Constitution recognized the need for each citizen to practice their religion in their own way. Folks who claim The United States is a Christian Nation are very much mistaken. The Constitution never mentions “Christian” or “Jesus”. Instead the Constitution simply acknowledges a power greater than our own, “God”.

The writers of the Constitution   did not want a state church with its inherit intolerance for differences in religious beliefs. The Constitution has been a wonderful platform of religious liberty as seen by our population. Our Country is one populated by Christians, Muslims, Jews, Atheists and a whole collection of other religions.   The Constitution has enabled our Nation to grow in religious liberty.

Religious liberty in a nation means the population is tolerant of all religious beliefs. We lose our religious liberty when one religion demands the government pass laws making that religion’s beliefs the law of the land. Government laws that limit one religion from practicing their beliefs in favor of another religion’s beliefs is a loss of religious liberty.

Movements to pass laws favoring one religion over another is a dangerous journey toward a State Church and the accompanying intolerance of those who believe differently. Tolerance of other religious beliefs is the core of religious liberty. I fervently hope we do not make the same mistake the Pilgrims made by creating an intolerant State Church that snuffs out all other religious liberty.

See you next time

Quest: 1950 Has Passed Into History Except in Washington D.C.

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Writing to my elected officials has become an important part of my daily activities. After seeing the photo at the White House of the ‘celebration’ of passing The House’s very defective healthcare bill   I felt the need to share a letter  I wrote to my Senators a couple weeks ago. Three women did manage to crash the party and appear in the photo. (Our Country’s population includes 50% women and minorities account for 50% of the population.) What is wrong with this picture?

Here is the letter I sent a couple weeks ago to Senators Rubio and Nelson.

“The 1950s-thinking coming out of the White House, Senate and Congress has me very much concerned about the future of our Nation.

The 50s thinking I refer to is:

1)       We believed we could control world events with military might like we did in WWII.   This thinking was proved wrong in Korea and Vietnam and again in the Middle East.

2)       We believed we had unlimited resources.  This idea has been disproved as we continue to discover the limited resource found under the earth’s surface.

3)       Belching smoke stacks and pouring sludge into waterways was a sign of prosperity.   Smoking cigarettes, cigars and pipes was fashionable.    It was believed that smoking Marijuana would lead to using harder drugs. We have since learned the damage being done to the environment and humans living on the earth by our pollution. We learned that smoking causes lung cancer. We have learned that Marijuana has some great medicinal value.

4)       We were unaware our pollution was causing destructive climate change.  This naïve thinking has been disproved by nearly 100% of scientific research.

5)       The United States white leadership saw the Nation as a homogenous (White/Christian) collection of humankind.  This archaic thinking is proven wrong simply by walking down the street in the 21st century.

6)       In 1950, the population was 40% rural,  by 1990 the rural population had dropped to 25%.

7)       We believed industrial growth would increase for our life time while men worked their entire career in one job and their sons expected to do the same.  We believed real estate values would always be rising.   Today changes tumble over each other and we have reached many limits to growth both in industry and real estate. The average worker has at least three jobs in their career today.

8)       Women could not own a credit card.  They could not purchase a car or a house without a man’s signature. We thought a family consisted of a man and a woman who stayed home with the two and a half children. We have since discovered the talents and abilities women offer to our Nation. We also have become aware of the fact that a family can look many different ways.

9)       We believed everyone had access to a good education.   We have since learned it takes a lot of work and government involvement to provide education for everyone.

Leadership cannot effectively govern if it does not understand the time in which it lives. Leaders basing their decisions on antiquated understandings of the world in which they live cannot make decisions that improve the society in which they live.

The White House and Cabinet Secretaries (confirmed by the Senate) are doing all they can to move us back to the 50’s. Any country trying to move backward is doomed in a world moving forward faster than we can comprehend.

Stop using worn out, out dated speaking points and beliefs in your deliberations. We live in the 21st Century and we cannot turn back time. What can you do to move us forward instead of dragging us back to extinction?

Stand up to the White House and stop the destruction of the environmental protections, the movements away from international cooperation, protections for minorities, attacks on legalization of marijuana, removing of controls on financial institutions and limiting of public education funding.”

Allen Heckman MAJ, USAF, Ret

See you next time.

Quest: What Color is an Alligator?

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On a weekend trip to watch the Pirates   play the Marlins, My Jane and I visited Shark Valley Visitors Center in the Everglades.   I learned so much on our short three-hour visit to this amazing natural wonder. Our guide, Kelly, was very knowledgeable and fun to hang out with. At the beginning of the second half of our tour Kelly asked us what color alligators are? She asked us to raise our hands if we thought alligators where green, or brown or gray or black. Now, here is an interesting thought about how are brains work. During the stop at the observation tower, before Kelly asked her question, every one of us had paused to gaze upon an alligator in a body of water just off the path we were traveling. We all saw that alligator coming and going on that path not 10 minutes before Kelly asked the question! None of us picked the correct color of alligators with our raised hands.

Our brain has a remarkable ability to ignore facts when we have been conditioned to believe something other than the facts. If your ‘tribe’ believes a certain ‘truth’ you will accept that belief as true. My oldest grandson, Joshua,   proved this point when I asked him what color alligators are. Joshua lives in a house that supports the Penn State Nittany Lions (a fictional animal) and the University of Florida Gators. Joshua knows alligators are green because every alligator depicted in University of Florida material is green.   By the way, that is the wrong answer.

If your ‘tribe’ (family, work place, church, gym) believes human beings have not contributed to global climate change you most likely will believe the same. This goofy brain action makes it more difficult to convince folks that we are affecting the climate.

Maybe this story will help you believe human beings are affecting our environment. The Everglades have a snake problem. There are at least 10,000 Burmese Pythons living in the Everglades. Some estimates state the number of Pythons as high as 100,000. No matter, 10,000 is a lot of Pythons. The problem with the Pythons is that they are eating all the small game, deer and some of the birds. The snakes are decimating the wildlife population because they do not have any natural enemies in the slough we know as The Everglades. “Why don’t they have any natural enemies?” You ask. I reply, “Because they are not native to the area.”

Back in the “Seventies”   one of the in-things to do apparently was to own a python. So, folks bought baby Burmese Pythons and took them home as pets. Even in the “seventies” there weren’t enough drugs to make me do that?! Anyway, the baby snakes got large and began to look strangely at the pet dogs and small children in the family.   When this began to happen, owners tried to give the snakes to zoos and other animal preserves but the zoos already had enough pythons. Well, the owners of the snakes didn’t want to just kill their pet so they took the thing to the Everglades and dropped them off. So, humankind changed the environment of the Everglades by introducing a snake with no enemies that has reproduced very actively. Yes, we human beings have affected our environment and climate in many ways. Currently, in Burma, in their natural state, the pythons are an endangered species.

By the way, do you know how you catch a Burmese Python. A python catcher walks through the slough in bare feet until they step on something smooth and a little slimy. Once you find one you reach down and grab it (Hoping it isn’t one of the four poisonous brands of snakes in the Everglades.) If you have a python you get help and take it to the collection point.   If you have a poisonous snake, however, throw it as far as you can and run the opposite direction. If you can convince your brain to like this idea it is a great part-time job.

Alligators are black,    really! 

 

See you next time.